I’m back! Moving into NHS librarianship

It’s been an awfully long time since my last update, so I’m just going to do a quick summary of what I’ve been up to since my last post!

In November 2015 I took up the post of Liaison Support Librarian at St George’s, University of London. This is a medical school in Tooting, South London, which works closely with St George’s NHS Foundation Trust. My job move was primarily for personal reasons as I wanted to move to London to be with my partner. However professionally it was also a great opportunity to move into a new sector as a healthcare librarian. My role primarily involved providing training to lots of healthcare professionals studying for CPD qualifications alongside their busy day jobs. It was a challenge dealing with users who often lacked confidence in IT skills, but such a rewarding experience showing them how easy it could be to find high quality evidence for their work, and providing lots of support and encouragement. Additionally I was also given the opportunity to run literature searches for NHS staff, this was a very valuable skill and one that is very specific to health librarianship. Other things that I did there included helping with marketing/promotion of the library, providing RefWorks training and support, and general enquiry desk duties.


I felt I wanted more of a professional challenge after about 4 months, and in May 2016 I started as the Knowledge Resources Manager for the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. It’s been 10 months in this job and the time has absolutely flown by, I asked for a professional challenge and boy did I get one!! The library team consists of myself and a library assistant so I have had so much to learn – I think I will do a separate post about being a solo librarian. We provide training and support for students taking courses at the Royal Marsden School; I have had library/information skills sessions embedded into 90% of the 20 or so modules that we have run so far this academic year. In addition to this, we provide library support for all staff working at the Royal Marsden; this involves running literature searches, sourcing books/journals, managing access to online resources, and answering enquiries… among other things! Luckily we are a smaller trust than most as we are a specialist cancer hospital, so it is just about doable with a small team.


So that’s just a quick snapshot of where I’m at at the moment! I am hoping to bring this blog back to life as it is a useful place to keep track of my professional development. Also, others have mentioned that they have found it useful 🙂


First week as a trainee liaison librarian

I’ve survived my first week of work as a trainee liaison librarian! So much has happened – I’ve met many people, been told many things, and am starting to get my head around the things I’m meant to be doing. I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt so far, and what I need to work on.

The first few days of my job were largely spent absorbing information. Monday was used to sort out administrative things, like where things are, a staff card and IT permissions, whilst on Tuesday and Wednesday several members of staff kindly took time out of their busy days to talk me through various Library processes and procedures. By Wednesday afternoon, I felt that I had a good understanding of my roles and responsibilities, although I hadn’t actually done very much myself beyond checking reading lists for the availability of recommended books in our Library.

My staff card

By Thursday afternoon, I was able to order some of these books and ebooks for the use of students in my department – initially with the guidance of my supervisor, Gordon, but later on independently! This was really satisfying as it was my first opportunity to actually perform some of my liaison librarian duties, including making decisions about how many copies to purchase, or whether print or electronic versions would be more appropriate. It was great to be able to put the theory I’d learned over the first few days into practice. On Friday, I booked in some of my first subject-specific induction sessions, and emailed members of academic staff. Real liaison librarian activities!

The 4th Floor of the Library is currently being renovated, so it has been difficult to get a real feel for where I’ll be working and where things are. Also as a result of this, I’ve been unable to assume my management responsibilities, which should cover shelvers on this floor. I’m actually quite grateful for this as it has meant that I will be able to ease in to my responsibilities slowly, taking them on gradually over the coming weeks.

Another challenge that I’ve faced so far is understanding the Library and how things work. One of the unique things about the staff structure here is that (unlike all my places of previous employment) individuals are only rarely given strictly functional roles, and most people have a range of responsibilities across different parts of the Library. For example, one Library Assistant could primary have cataloguing responsibilities, but also have certain hours of their day allocated towards shelving, and others towards liaison assistance in a particular department. This is great and I can see how this would be a really positive thing for the Library overall, but it makes learning who people are and what they do trickier!

Over the next week, I hope to be able to gain a better understanding of my department and its unique information needs, and begin building relationships with academic and administrative staff. I think I’ll investigate other university libraries’ libguides for my subject areas. I should also learn more about my Modern Languages responsibilities, as a key member of staff will have returned from annual leave. I’ll try harder to learn people’s names and responsibilities, particularly Library Assistants and fellow Liaison Librarians – the website and intranet will be useful for this. I could also start thinking about my teaching responsibilities, and how I will approach them.

Overall, I’m relieved to have reached the end of my first week without breaking anything! My colleagues have been really patient and supportive, and I’m really looking forward to learning more from and working with them over the coming weeks. There are times when I still feel really nervous and unprepared for everything I’m meant to be doing, but I’ve just got to stay positive, build on my professional experience, and remember that there are people there to support me.

PS: here is my staff page!

I’m still alive!

Recently, I stumbled across Marie Cannon’s blog while doing some research for my course, and I found it such an interesting read that I thought I’d try and revive this blog. I found her posts really thought-provoking, and writing about my own experiences may help me to trace my own professional development – they might even be useful to someone else!

A lot has happened since I started here at Sheffield, and it would be silly to try and cover it all in one big catchup post. But here are some of the topics I’m hoping to address over the coming weeks:

  • The MA Librarianship course at Sheffield – has it been useful?
  • Module choices
  • My dissertation
  • The University of Sheffield Library Society, which I’ve been involved in this year as a committee member
  • Preparing for life post-qualification

I’m hoping to blog every other week, if possible.

Quick update…

I’m in the last week of my traineeship at St John’s College, Cambridge! It has been a wonderful experience, which I will expand upon more fully at a later date.

One of my proudest achievements during my time here has been the launch of a redesign for the Cambridge Graduate Trainees’ website, CaTaLOG. We provide information on careers in librarianship, and an insight into life as a graduate library trainee in Cambridge. The CaTaLOG website was designed and created by the graduate trainees of 2003-2004. At the time, the decision was taken to write the code from scratch using Notepad to allow for real understanding of how HTML works and how pages are constructed. Since then, generations of library trainees significantly developed the site, but by 2012 it had become unwieldy to navigate, and both updates and backups had to be made manually. The appearance of the website was dated, and couldn’t be upgraded without using much more advanced coding than we were capable of. Because of these reasons, the graduate trainees of 2012-13 decided to use a CMS (Content Management System) to manage the CaTaLOG website. The CMS that we chose is WordPress; this decision was made because of its popularity, support network, and user-friendliness.

I was primarily responsible for the actual installation of WordPress onto the server. It was a tricky business which really stretched my technical capabilities, but luckily it’s all up and running now! There was a very hairy moment where I nearly deleted everything on the server, but thank bananas I noticed in time and cancelled the operation!

My fellow trainees, Pippa, Tim, James, Kirsten and Rachel have been absolutely wonderful at pitching in, helping to migrate website content over to the new platform, and I think it’s definitely been a team effort. I’ve really enjoyed both working and hanging out with them over the past year!

Anyway, if you have a moment, please check out the brand spanking new CaTaLOG website!